For the past two months, we’ve been trying to make up for the lack of sporting events by reconstructing games that were canceled due to past labor disputes.
If we can’t have live games to follow due to events out of our control, the logic went, then the least we can do is make up the games that owners and players willingly called off because they couldn’t come up with a way to split a pool of money.
We’ve reconstructed two MLB seasons — the strike and lockout marred 1981 and 1994 ones. Then we moved on to the NFL and fixed its 1982 and 1987 seasons. Then we rebuilt the 1998-99 and 2011-12 NBA seasons.
Last week, we turned to the NHL and uncanceled the 1994-95 season.
The next NHL labor dispute wiped out the 2004-05 season. Since the entire regular season and playoffs were canceled, we’d need to use the entire 2005-06 season as make-up games for the canceled ones. And that means that your Carolina Hurricanes would win back-to-back Stanley Cups — the real one they won on the ice in 2006 would also serve as the makeup for 2005.
Now, our uncanceled series concludes with the 2012-13 NHL season.
A lockout wiped out the start of the season that year. Play finally resumed on Jan. 19, and the 82-game season was shortened to 48.
The Boston Bruins emerged from the fourth seed to win the Eastern Conference, knocking off the top-seeded Penguins in a four-game sweep in the Eastern finals.
Out west, the top-seeded Blackhawks stormed to the Stanley Cup Final, where they knocked off Boston in six games to hoist the Stanley Cup.
Can they pull it off in a full season? Let’s start uncanceling games and find out.
As a reminder, we’re not using computer or video game simulations or statistical tricks. Instead, we’re using actual action that took place on the ice. Basically, for each canceled game, we’ll use the next time those two teams played (at the same venue) as a “makeup game.” For example, we would use games from the 2020-21 NBA and NHL seasons to fill in any holes left by the coronavirus in this year’s schedule.
Pittsburgh won the Atlantic in a rout through 48 games. The makeups only served to extend the Penguins’ lead, as they won the division by 23 points. The Islanders went 12-18-4 in makeup games to lose their grip on the final playoff spot. Philadelphia, which went 19-11-4 in the makeups, took the spot.
The only other major change in the East was the Bruins, who had a conference-best 24-6-4 makeup record to take the Northeast Division title from Montreal.
One division and one playoff spot flipped when we uncanceled the Western Conference. Chicago had a 17-point lead in the Central at the end of 48 games and needed most of that margin to hold off the hard-charging Blues, who went a league-best 25-6-3 in the makeups. Unfortunately for St. Louis, it didn’t improve their No. 4 seed at all.
Columbus played one game over .500 in the makeups, but it was enough to earn the Blue Jackets the eighth seed when Vancouver collapsed in the Northwest. The Canucks went 13-17-4 and fell from the division lead to out of the playoffs entirely. Minnesota took the Northwest with a 19-10-5 mark in makeups.
The playoffs in the East were thrown a wrench when the eighth-seeded Flyers swept the Penguins in the first round. The No. 2 and 3 seeds, the Bruins and Capitals, advanced to the conference final, and Washington won, four games to one, to play for the Cup.
While the one first-round upset scrambled the East, the Western Conference postseason was utter chaos. All four first-round series ended in upsets. Eighth-seeded Colorado swept top-seeded Chicago. No. 7 Detroit beat second-seeded Anaheim in seven games. San Jose, the sixth seed, knocked off No. 3 Minnesota in five games, and fifth-seeded Los Angeles beat fourth-seeded St. Louis in six.
The Kings swept Colorado in the second round and beat San Jose in seven to win the wild, wild West.
Los Angeles then beat Washington in seven games to win the 2013 Stanley Cup, which would give them three straight (they also won in 2012 and 2014), the first team to three-peat since the Islanders of the early 1980s won four in a row.
That brings our uncanceled series to an end, with no more canceled games to make up. Ironically, our series seems to have served its purpose, making up for a lack of pro sports. Just as we end, NASCAR has run its first event and the other leagues are taking steps toward reopening. Of course, showing that we can’t possibly fix everything, just as we finish uncanceling all the past labor disputes, another one — in MLB — could end up delaying or canceling baseball’s return to the field.